Special Report
Digital Media India 2016
echoes over protection of digital business from legacy culture
News on mobile internet trending as smart-phones
and quality bandwidth become affordable

The fifth edition of Digital Media India conference, organised by WAN-IFRA (World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers) from February 22-33, 2016 at Aerocity in New Delhi, had the theme ‘Engaging Audience, Monetising Content’. The conference drew 170 delegates from more than 10 countries, highest figure ever recorded in the past five years and 35 percent growth from the previous edition. SM Dutt, technical editor, All About Newspapers reports a brief account of all that presented, analysed and discussed during the two-day news media conference.

On the first day, in his opening keynote address at the onset of the conference, Torry Pedersen, CEO/editor-in-chief of Verdens Gang (VG), Norway, underlined the importance of protecting digital media business from legacy culture. This norm is what this largely circulated Norwegian tabloid VG follows back home and it set to be the main ‘message’ conveyed even at the last panel discussion on the second day that followed the concluding session of Digital Media India 2016.

To the rhythm of the surging wave of digital era, Pedersen eloquently presented how VG transitioned by thinking ‘digital first’ and recruiting right people to cope with the dynamics of transformation now taking place in the news media world. He explained that ‘digital’ is not disrupting journalism, but enabling, citing an instance of 1.6 million readers in the age group of 12-16 years who hooked only to online to catch the news of the recent Paris terror attack. He further stressed that the transformation would require new criteria for success, setting the tone for the conference’s deliberations.

Indian scenario

Talking about the current Indian scenario, Rajan Anandan, vice president & MD, Google South East Asia & India, mentioned that 65 percent of news readers in the country access to internet via mobile and the total number of users is estimated to reach 500 million by 2017. “Online news requires new capabilities – web and app, video and Wi-Fi and localised content,” he explained estimating 500 million internet users and 400 million mobile users by 2017 in the country. In the follow-up panel discussion session, highlighting top priorities for the year 2016, Anant Goenka, director & headnews media, The Express Group, observed the impact of instant video news on mobile, citing the example of news on the recent Chennai flood, which received big hit on YouTube.

At the discussion, Sanjay Tehran, business head-digital content & syndication, HT Media Ltd, agreed the perceptible fact that ‘news on internet is working’ and video is a big priority in this. His focus leaned to social media, emphasising on ‘engagement’ and ‘monetisation’ into this new-age online platform. Sharing the success story of his company’s new age digital news media platform, Keith Cheong, head of salesdigital division, Singapore Press Holding (SPH), indicated content, videos, mobilephones as top priorities. Conclusive note at the discussion drawn upon journalism not disrupted by digitisation, it has only made it enhancement.

Big Data getting bigger

A big thing in the session on ‘Big Data’ was of understanding preferences of audience and integrating them into content decision making. Neerav Parekh, founder & CEO, vPhrase (India), introduced the company’s robotic software programme PHRAZOR, which can rewrite data-driven articles in real time basis. When asked, "Is it threat to human journalists?" Neerav replied, “It’s not; it’s just enabling and speeding up the manual tasks of journalists.” PHRAZOR analyses, reasons and writes like a human being, in multiple languages.

Tariq Hussain, founder & COO, Express KCS, presented the company’s high-quality advertising and marketing production for global brands. Another speaker in the session, Srinivasan Ramani, deputy national editor, The Hindu, narrated about the newspaper’s engagement in big data collection and mining, which helps them engage to the right online audience; the venture is now set a long way ahead to do fresh activities further.

Hinting at the current trends on new social media and online video, Ashok Venkatramani, CEO, ABP News Network, mentioned about the surge of ‘digital media’ as an adored medium among young generation. In this, India boasts a young population consisting of 65 percent below 35 years of age and they are recurrently switched to social media, online videos for instant news feeds.

Organic growth

In a follow-up session on organic growth in social media, Rajesh Priyadarshi, digital editor, BBC Hindi, narrated the growth story of digital media ever since the advent of dot.com technologies and the horizon of news media being hovered with new opportunities. He further narrated that the onset of digital media has augmented various aspects, such as instant people to people interaction on online news media platforms. But the challenge, according to Rajesh, is the authenticity of the sources and genuineness of the news items.

Youth Ki Awaaj, a mouthpiece for the youth across the nation, is a vibrant online platform where young readers could grab news, share their views. Anshul Tiwari, founder & editor-in-chief, Youth Ki Awaaj, mentioned that what it ticks these days is ‘good content’ to engage with local communities. “Everything is boiled down to content; content is king,” he mentioned. In the parallel breakout session titled ‘Right Ingredient for Online News Video’, a host of speakers comprising Prasad Sanyal, editor, timeofindia.com; Kartik Nagrajan, national director-content & social media, GroupM; and international German journalist Robb Montgomery, echoed over the effective use of online news videos.

One-of-its-kind rural online news service, CGNet Swara runs Bultoo Radio (the term ‘Bultoo’ is derived from what it sounds when village people pronounce ‘Blue Tooth’) broadcasting radio programmes for people in remote Chhattisgarh. Talking about the online news service, Subhranshu Choudhary, co-founder, CGNet Swara, mentioned that their radio programmes are primarily messages and songs of people submitted to the station via a common CGnet Swara online calling number.

‘Engaging the Mobile Audience’ was the session in which Subhajit Banerjee, editormobile, The Guardian, narrated the success story of the newspaper’s mobile journey and responsive news sites. He said the ultimate trick in the mission is to provide readers what they want. The final session at the closure of the first day of the conference was a ‘case study’ from The Indian Express, narrating the design approach for mobile audience, presented by Renuka Chugh, assistant manager - product (Apps), The Indian Express.

Audience engagement

Dawn of the second day of the conference cracked with the opening keynote speech from Anjali Kapoor, head of digital, Bloomberg (Hong Kong), discoursing on tactical practices of audience engagement. In the immediate follow-up session titled ‘Revenue Maximizing Ideas’, Keith Cheong, head of sales, digital division, SPH, drew up his company’s digital story, driving constantly a gainful and sustainable online news business extensively disseminating on 25 news portals. Matthew Sanders, senior director, Desert Digital Media, talked about keys to mobile ready branded contents, with which they serve more than 450 publishers worldwide.

A big challenge in the digital world is ‘advertising’. This was what two keynote presenters in the session ‘Digital Advertising’ discussed about. In the inspiring session, a case study was presented by Umair Wolid, head-marketing & digital media, Wijeya Newspaper, portraying a combined native advertising/content marketing project. Shedding a spotlight on ‘display advertising’, Philip Jose, head - media solutions, Mathrubhumi, talked about the increasing challenge in the face of mobile content consumption. In a parallel breakout session, three eminent speakers talked at length about ad blockers—Ben Shaw, directoradvisory, WAN-IFRA; Swapnil Srivastava, VP, Ad Tech, Times Internet Ltd; and Anita Nayyar, CEO, Havas Media Group, India & South Asia.

Content monetisation

The ultimate maneuver is to monetise the content and programming advertising. Bringing this approach, a couple of case studies were presented in the session, revealing inspiring methodologies. Radhika Shukla, country director, News-Republic, presented the case study on content monetisation and the other on programmatic advertising by Salil Kumar, COO, India Today Group Digital. In connection to advertisement aspects, Amit Mittal, founder & CEO, Simplifi5D Technologies, narrated the ways and tactics to protect contents and revenues in case of ad-frauds.

Finally the last session of the conference came up in form of a ‘panel discussion’ on digital pure players, whether they will disrupt the traditional Indian news media industry. In the chair was T Gautam Pai, group managing director, Manipal Group, along with a panel of speakers, comprising Ritu Kapoor, founder, thequint.com; Siddharth Varadarajan, founding editor, thewire.in; and Surthijith KK, editor-inchief, Huffington Post (India). The discussion stretched upon some key questions on digital media aspects, such as would it be able to sustain a business model and how to reach audience and monetise content? Empathetically, an ultimate solution to these aspects, which the panelists agreed upon, was protection of digital media business from legacy culture.


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